Batavia, NY — James P. Samberg, 85, former vice-president of operations at Batavia Downs, died April 29, 2020.
Mr. Samberg was born in 1935 in Detroit, Mich., where he attended Precious Blood Catholic School and Catholic Central High School. He went on to graduate from St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto with a degree in Theology and Writing. He taught English and history for a year at his alma mater, Catholic Central High School and then at Aquinas Institute.
In 1983 Mr. Samberg transitioned careers and came to Batavia Downs as their director of publicity. His leadership in the organization eventually moved him to overseeing the entire plant as vice-president of operations, a position he held until the track’s initial closure in 1997.
In 1998 Mr. Samberg reached out to Western Regional Off Track Betting with a proposal to sell the track to them and was eventually able to consummate a deal that year. The track re-opened under its new ownership in 2002.
It was the efforts of Mr. Samberg to move Batavia Downs forward that gave the shuttered track a new life under the guidance of WROTB and that interaction eventually turned out to be financially beneficial to the residents of 15 western New York counties (that include the cities of Buffalo and Rochester) by returning more than $220 million in revenues generated by the now modern and thriving racing and gaming venue to the taxpayers of those municipalities over the last 18 years.
Mr. Samberg was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend who loved life and everyone he knew. He was well respected by all the horsemen who raced at Batavia Downs during his tenure and will be missed by everyone who knew him.
Mr. Samberg was preceded in death by his parents, Louis and Martha; loving wife, Barbara P.; and son, Michael P. McDonald. He is survived by his children, Martha Smith, Mark (Jacqueline) McDonald, Margo McDonald and Meghan McDonald (Scott Boone); 11 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; brother, Carl L.; sister, Suzanne (Ronald) Marmol; sister-in-law, Donna Warner; several nieces and nephews; and special friend of the family, Bonnie Jones.
A Memorial Mass at St. Ann’s Home will be scheduled at a later date due to the current situation. Interment at Holy Sepulchre was held privately.
Memorial contributions may be made to the American Kidney Foundation or to the Sisters of Mercy.
To share a memory of Mr. Samberg please visit www.giltnerfuneralhomes.com.